fastdict — Reimagining a Dictionary App for on-the-go Use

For my studies I have been reimagining what the pretty old-fashioned and heavily cluttered dict.cc could look like. I had been using their app for ages because it featured pretty useful offline capability, but never been too amazed by the lackluster design and user experience for my personal needs.

So I got sidetracked to design just a few animated screens for a more fitting version of the app. As I haven’t done this before, I am looking forward for honest feedback.

When using the desktop version of the website, I usually sat at home and used dict.cc for my English homework to find the perfect words and expressions to fit in my sentences. I had enough time and could also look at the synonyms, connected words and phonetics.

The new Design in Use (Mockup)

For the mobile app it was and still is a whole different story: I need it when talking to exchange students and noticing that I am missing one particular word to explain something or to understand them. Speed is of importance, so the flow of the conversation does not get too disrupted. It’s less vital to find the perfect translation — It just has to be fast and give an idea of what people might mean. If I am looking for “acceleration” and even before I stop typing “to accelerate” shows up, I’ve already got the idea and already reached my goal.

This was even more important when I was in Poland with not-so-very-fluent Polish. Waiting for the translation to arrive via mobile internet connection or even clicking what felt like ten times while the other person was waiting for me to find an important word — that is just uncomfortable and felt unneccessary.

And now that I can conjugate and decline Polish words a bit better, it’s also easier to find the right word just by looking up one close to it.

Therefore, the priority list looks as follows:


Important Elements:

  • Being able to type directly after startup
  • Seeing any roughly fitting translations directly
  • Having to click less
  • Ability to access more translations if necessary

Less important:

  • Switching languages (is a must, but happens only rarely)
  • Listening to the pronounciations
  • Search history
  • Side menu and other basic stuff

Not important in this case:

  • Synonyms, phonetics, etymology
  • Links to other dictionaries
  • Source of the translation, forums
  • Language combinations like French-Portuguese, because the app and the whole dictionary database has mainly been built for English-German translations and only features translation to other languages from or to either English or German.

So I decided to only show the first entry of the database (right) for the corresponding search result (left) and to let the user then decide if he needs more detail and wants to swipe left on one of the translations.

A swipe right on the original word to the left triggers the audio file of the pronounciation, so the user can double-check if it is indeed the word he was looking for – or even to practise pronouncing it before speaking to somebody.

fastdict — Startup and Search Animations

I implemented a secondary search button in the lower center of the screen, so it’s located close to the thumb, even if the user is left-handed. There should be no need to stretch all the way to the top bar.

The button to toggle the language menu is right above it, so it’s not in the user’s way but also easily reachable and always prominent to ensure the right language is currently chosen.

By tapping a language written in English, the whole app switches to the English mode and translates from the chosen language to English (or the other way around – it’s always bidirectional) and the same principle applies for languages written in German.

fastdict — Language Switching Animations

Known Problems:

  • How can users learn the behaviour oft swiping to reveal information? There could be a mini tutorial while onboarding or maybe low-opacity arrows showing where to swipe on the first X uses of the app.
  • Why the “dark theme” ? In general usage, because of daylight, this might turn out problematically. I just wanted to try it out for this small experiment only, because the only “statisctial data” I had was that I personally used it a lot when talking with people in bars in the evening.
  • In my Version there are some features not implemented, like downloading languages and knowing which ones the user already has. That’s because I mainly wanted to show the swiping feature.

This is only a visual prototype of a few screens and functions, but I hope that it conveys the ideas well, as it is my first project like this.
Any feedback is highly appreciated.

What do you agree with? What could have been done better?
And did you find the mistake where I put “le” isntead of “la”? (#shameonme)

Thank you in advance, interwebs people.